Category Archives: History

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

It was the film announcement heard ’round the world: George Lucas was returning to the realm of Star Wars to create a prequel trilogy to the original films. Given that this took place just before social media really took off (no Twitter, no Facebook, not even YouTube), excitement was at a fever pitch, with everyone speculating on how the origins of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and others would be shown.

I remember being over the moon excited about this. I’d always been jealous that my parents had gotten to see the original Star Wars movies in the theater, and now (as I saw it), here was my chance to see a new Star Wars film on the big screen, just like they did so many years ago.

Jar_Jar_meets_Jedi.png

“What’s this?” “A local.”

The Phantom Menace (if I understand the timeline correctly), takes place just over 20 years before the Battle of Yavin (the climax of Episode IV). The Republic rules the galaxy, but corruption is starting to take over. While escorting the young Queen of Naboo (Natalie Portman) to the galactic capital Coruscant, Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) encounter an extremely Force-sensitive boy named Anakin Skywalker on the planet Tatooine (and he ultimately ends up leaving with them after helping the group secure the parts to fix their ship by winning a podrace). Ultimately, Naboo is saved from the vile Trade Federation, Anakin becomes Obi-Wan’s apprentice, and Senator Palpatine is now the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, all in all it sounds like a great story, but was it really?

Screen-Shot-2015-09-02-at-4.04.49-PM

I still debate this question to myself from time to time. Considering that I was only 11 when I saw this film in the theater, I couldn’t understand for a long time why people didn’t like this film. My thinking was “It’s Star Wars, so it’s automatically awesome!” And yet, as time went on, I found myself preferring to watch the original trilogy over the prequels. What happened?

I don’t think there will ever be a universal consensus, but for The Phantom Menace there is one element that everyone agrees they hate: Jar Jar Binks. Of course *I* thought he was funny…until I grew up, and the humor got old after the 12th viewing. I know Jake Lloyd (the child actor who played Anakin) has received a lot of flak for his performance, but for goodness’ sake he was what, 9 years old? Given everything he had to work with, I think he did a great job in the role.

Snapshot_2

Episode I: The Phantom Menace “Duel of the Fates” (1999)

Problems aside, the lightsaber duel (accompanied by “Duel of the Fates”) at the climax of the film was beyond awesome in my young eyes. Darth Maul was beyond terrifying, and it was really all well done. I remember gasping in horror when Qui-Gon got impaled too, I did NOT see it coming and I really wanted Qui-Gon to live. Looking back, the lightsaber duel between Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan remains one of the few highlights in a film that hasn’t aged terribly well (especially where some of its CGI effects are concerned).

It goes without saying that the rest of the score was equally as amazing (in seven movies there hasn’t been a bad Star Wars score yet and I don’t think there ever will be).

I think only time will tell how good (or bad) The Phantom Menace really was.

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

For more Star Wars see also:

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, My Thoughts!!

Star Wars, the one that started it all! (1977)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), the saga concludes (or does it?)

A Random Thought on “The Force Awakens”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Good

Star Wars: The Last Jedi- The Bad

Star Wars: The Last Jedi-The Ugly

*film poster is the property of Walt Disney Studios

Shrek (2001) upends fairy tales!

shrek_ver2_xlg

I have a confession: knowing that Shrek is fifteen years old today makes me feel exceptionally old (and I’m only 27).

On this day in film history, Shrek was released by DreamWorks Pictures and established the studio as a competitor to Pixar in the world of computer animation (as the technology used in Shrek was state of the art at the time of release). The film is a combination of a parody film and a fractured fairy tale in that, at times the film openly mocks pop culture (Duloc is a parody of Disneyland) and it also twists the original fairy tales (princesses are supposed to be rescued by handsome princes and defended FROM the ogre, not vice versa).

Farfuck

In this story, reclusive ogre Shrek (Mike Meyers) is forced into a quest to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) for the spineless Lord Farquad (John Lithgow) when his swamp home is overrun with fairy tale refugees driven out by Farquad (who desires perfection above all else, and fairy tale creatures don’t belong as far as he is concerned). Fiona appears to be a spoiled princess upon first meeting: she’s miffed that she’s been rescued by an ogre and not “Prince Charming”, she’s rude and demanding, but over time she, Shrek and Shrek’s annoying sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy) reach an understanding.

450full-shrek-screenshot

But Fiona has a BIG secret of her own. It turns out (*spoiler alert*) that she’s under a curse: by day she’s a gorgeous princess, but by night, she turns into an ogre (a female version of Shrek, to be precise). She tries to tell Shrek about it because she discovers she wants to go off with the ogre (and to heck with “happily ever after”) but due to a misunderstanding, Shrek thinks that Fiona hates him for being a “beast” (not realizing that Fiona was talking about herself). As a result, an unhappy Fiona ends up being led away by Lord Farquad (who also has no idea about his bride-to-be’s secret). Thankfully, due to some intervention by Donkey, Shrek comes to accept that he does love Fiona after all and saves her at the last minute from being wed to Farquad (who himself ends up as a dragon’s dinner in a particularly satisfying moment).

f.340

In one final twist, the curse is broken, but instead of remaining human (as you might expect in a traditional fairy tale film), Fiona remains an ogre (which makes her absolutely beautiful in Shrek’s eyes) and they get married and ride off in an onion carriage (a parody of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage), but is it happily ever after? Shrek 2 might have something to say about that…

I remember going to see this movie in theaters and laughing hysterically for most of the story. The film does appear slightly dated fifteen years down the road (CGI has advanced by leaps and bounds since then) but it’s still a cute family film (that will hopefully be added to my collection someday).

Become a patron of the blog at: patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

See also: Animated Film Reviews

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a complete rip-off of Wrath of Khan

(prepare for a rant/tirade because I have some issues with this movie)

Oh the deja vu….like the first Star Trek film in the reboot era, I had high hopes for Into Darkness, especially once it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as the villain. Everything looked great, the story details sounded good, the teaser was amazing, but then one little detail came to my attention: the name of Cumberbatch’s character was Khan.

Having seen every Star Trek film there is (and almost all of the TV series to boot), knowing the villain was named Khan meant only one thing: Into Darkness HAD to be a remake of Wrath of Khan (1984), the film which is considered by many to be the greatest in the series. Oh wait, that’s right, I’m sorry, it’s not a remake, it’s *clears throat” “How the events of Wrath of Khan MIGHT have occurred set in an alternate universe.” Which is a clever way of saying IT’S.A.REMAKE!!

star-trek-into-darkness-karl-urban-benedict-cumberbatch.jpg

I MIGHT have been able to come to terms with this if the story had been really good, but it’s not. Every plot detail begs for a comparison with the original film, and for me, the original comes out on top. I’m not saying Cumberbatch did a bad job per se, but compared to Ricardo Montalban’s epic performance? Nope, it’s not even close.

The only twist that got my attention is that they flip-flopped who sacrificed themselves to save the ship, that was the one twist I found believable. Of course, Kirk being as devoted to his ship and crew as he is, would surely have done what Spock did in Wrath of Khan, given half the opportunity.

68dd0aa20ab61ed2e70d9387044cdafd02a8801d

The ending wasn’t half bad either. True, Khan is still alive at film’s end (which means he might pop up sometime in the future), and McCoy’s final line “Five years in space, God help me.” is pretty funny (and perfectly in character too), and yet, I don’t like it, I CAN’T like it. If you’re going to reboot a series, do what the James Bond writers did and keep coming up with original material, only set in a new context, don’t try to rehash the original films and use the “alternate universe” as an excuse.

For me, truly, Star Trek Beyond is the studio’s last chance to keep me as a fan of the new films. If this doesn’t blow me away, well, there’s always the original films to enjoy.

This concludes my rant. (I know I take a bit of a hard line when it comes to the remakes, it’s just that the original films are very special to me, and if you like the rebooted series, that’s ok! Promise!)

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also: Film/TV Reviews

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Star Trek (2009), my (mixed) thoughts on this alternate universe

On May 8th, 2009, the universe of Star Trek, as seen by J.J Abrams, came hurtling into theaters.

Oh where to begin with this movie, with this concept! I was initially thrilled that a new Star Trek movie was being made (Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) having been billed as the final adventure) and couldn’t wait to learn more. And then details began to come out, that this movie was going to be different, the “How they all met” story, as it were. But the previews didn’t look right to me, the story they were telling seemed off somehow. And then the movie came out and I learned why. This movie was set in a totally different universe. Effectively, the Star Trek universe that had been established since 1966…really didn’t exist anymore.

I.Was.FURIOUS.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash the actors (they did a fine job) or the soundtrack (even though Goldsmith and Horner created much better sounds for their respective Star Trek films), it’s just, calling this an “alternate universe” is just a fancy way of saying they rebooted the series but they didn’t want it to look like one. A reboot is a reboot, and, maybe I’m in the minority but, Star Trek didn’t need one (in my opinion). I’m okay with a new cast of characters, but recasting the original crew does not sit right with me.

star-trek-2009-nero-speaks-to-kirk-and-spock

The story is that in the original Star Trek universe, the planet Romulus is about to be destroyed by a huge supernova. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has come up with a last-ditch effort plan to save Romulus but the method is utilized too late to save the planet. In the aftermath of the explosion, a time vortex is created and both Spock and a Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) are flung back into time (due to the “red matter” that Spock had tried to use. Nero holds Spock personally responsible for the death of his family and vows to make the Vulcan suffer. How? Oh, simply by destroying the planet Vulcan, that’s all. (You know, Vulcan, the site of some of the most important events in the original series, it gets blown up.) In effect, the presence of Spock and Nero in the past creates an alternate universe because the course of events is being altered from what it should have been.

Despite my feelings, I really did try to like this movie, I really did (after all, it’s the only option for seeing Star Trek in theaters at the moment) and I just couldn’t get into it. I think the problem (for me) is, I grew up watching the original Star Trek movies and tv shows and that is the Star Trek I know and love. This Star Trek…it says most of the right things, but, as I’ve said before, it doesn’t feel quite right. To this day, I still can’t put my finger on the issue, but I’m hoping Star Trek: Beyond is different.

*poster is the property of Paramount Pictures

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also:

Film/TV Reviews

Michael Giacchino talks Star Trek (2009)

Michael Giacchino talks Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a complete rip-off of Wrath of Khan

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Muppet_Treasure_Island_poster

Like the Muppet’s Christmas Carol before it, Muppet Treasure Island tells the story of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver with the Muppet twist: Captain Smollet is Kermit the Frog; Fozzie Bear is Squire Trelawney Jr.; Mr. Arrow is Sam the Eagle (his character is a total opposite from the book version); the pirates are an assortment of Muppets; Silver has a pet lobster named Polly; Gonzo and Rizzo play Jim’s two friends and, oh yes, Miss Piggy plays BenjaminGunn, marooned on the titular Treasure Island by Captain Flint after Smollet left her waiting at the altar. The film was directed by Brian Henson, the son of Jim Henson, the late creator of the Muppets.

Aside from the original Muppet Movie, this was my favorite film to feature the Muppets growing up. The songs and music are funny and serve to keep the story moving along. The instrumental score was composed by Hans Zimmer (no wonder I love listening to it so much), with additional music by Harry Gregson-Williams. Zimmer certainly did not skimp on musical quality. The opening instrumental melody (before Billy Bones’ narration begins) is just splendid, with a driving horn theme that is reminiscent of sea songs and old films about the high seas.

My favorite songs by far are:

Shiver_My_Timbers

“Shiver My Timbers” : This is the opening song set during the prologue where Billy Bones narrates how Captain Flint brought all of his treasure onto the island, and once it was buried, killed all of the pirates so that only he would know where the treasure was hidden (Billy Bones the first mate, stayed behind on the ship so his life was spared). I just love the men’s chorus as they sing this song, it’s driving, it’s good music.

Propirate

“Professional Pirate” : After kidnapping Jim and revealing himself as a pirate, Long John Silver (and company) sing of the virtues of being a pirate in an attempt to convince young Hawkins into joining them. Tim Curry’s great singing voice is put to good use here and this is a great musical number.

Boom_shakalaka

“Boom Shakalaka” : It turns out that Treasure Island is also the home of a tribe of wild boars (led by Spa’ am, get it?) who have made Miss Piggy their Queen (but of course), and “Boom Shakalaka” is the song they sing to summon her big entrance on an Asian elephant (how an Asian elephant got onto a Caribbean island I shall never know). Boom-Shakalaka is also her name among the tribe.

Cabinfever

“Cabin Fever” : After the voyage to Treasure Island has begun, the Hispaniola is becalmed at sea for almost a week, and the bored-out-of-their-minds crew goes slightly nuts, performing a song and dance routine about how crazy they have all become. It’s pure Muppet hilarity (notably, Silver, Hawkins, Smollett and Arrow are all absent from this number).

Even if you’ve never seen a Muppet movie before, Muppet Treasure Island is a great place to start. At 20 years old, this movie has lost none of its charm.

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

See also: Film/TV Reviews

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Film Music 101: Foley

In the world of film music, Foley refers to the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added in post-production to enhance the audio quality of a film. And by everyday sound effects, I mean things as simple as the “swishing” sound that clothing makes, the sound of shoes “tapping” on the floor, the sound of glass “breaking” and so on.

Foley artists may be required to record sound effects if the props and set of a film do not react in the same way as their real-life counterparts might (for example, a prop sword made of rubber is not going to sound like the real thing, so a Foley artist would have to dub in the sound of a metal sword).

Foley_Room_at_the_Sound_Design_Campus_(cropped)

A Foley Artist at work

A Foley artist might also be brought in to cover up unwanted sounds captured on a movie set, like the sound of an airplane or passing traffic. If the Foley artist has done their job correctly, the addition of these sound effects should be completely unnoticeable.

The history of what is known as “Foley” dates back to radio programs of the 1920s, when sound effects had to be created live and often on the spot.

Broadcasting_a_radio_play_at_NBC_studio

The man second from the right is a “sound effects man” That black board he’s holding helped make the sound of a ringing telephone or simulate the sound of a door closing.

As recording technology became more advanced, the Foley effects evolved as well. How interesting! Now you know what they mean when the credits refer to “Foley.”

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

For more Film Music 101: see here

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Film Music 101: Compilation Score

Unlike an original film score, which is composed specifically for the film, the compilation score consists of background music that is assembled entirely from pre-existing material.

Graduateposter67

Copyright © 1967 by Embassy Pictures

Using Simon & Garfunkel songs for the score had a big impact on later film music

Compilation scores really took off in the mid-1960s after the 1967 film The Graduate featured a score consisting entirely of Simon & Garfunkel music (including “The Sound of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson.”).  Compilation scores can also be known as pop scores if the pre-existing music consists of pop songs.

MV5BNDYyMDgxNDQ5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjc1ODg3OA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_

Another example of the compilation score is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Most infamously, Stanley Kubrick rejected composer Alex North’s original score at the last minute and retained the film’s temp track (consisting of classical pieces) as the film’s final score.

 

The advent of compilation scores led older film composers to bemoan the growing belief that the classic film score (as created in the 1930s) was “dead and buried.” While this appeared to be true for a time (as compilation scores became exceptionally popular), original film scores never fully stopped being created, they were merely placed on the back burner for a decade or so until John Williams stepped up with his earth-shattering score for Star Wars (1977).

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

See also:

Film Music 101: Borrowing

Film Music 101: Arranger

Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Film Music 101: Empathetic Sound

Film Music 101: Foley

Film Music 101: Mickey Mousing

Film Music 101: “Stinger” Chords

Film Music 101: Dubbing

Film Music 101: Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

Film Music 101: Underscore

Film Music 101: Sidelining

Film Music 101: “Test” Lyrics

Film Music 101: The First Film Score

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Film Music 101: “Test” Lyrics

When a film needs to have a song written for it, the composer (or group of composers) will create what are known as “test” lyrics while the melody is being put together.

As a general rule, test lyrics bear little to no resemblance to the final version, they’re really intended as a tool to help guide the song writers in putting the verses together (in a sense, test lyrics are similar to the temp track created for a film, see The Temp Track for details).

Once the final lyrics are completed, the test lyrics are thrown out and never seen by the public…not usually. There is one notable exception, where the test lyrics became so popular that the writers kept them as the final version.

I’m talking about the song “Gaston” from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991)

gbzymisjno0x2gvbvqv9

There’s a reason those lyrics are particularly silly…

It turns out that when the writers for this movie were putting the songs together, the song that turned out to be “Gaston” was originally planned to be completely different. What it was supposed to be we will never know, because the writers became so attached to the test lyrics, that they decided to just keep them and thus, “Gaston” was born.

 

“Gaston” – Beauty and the Beast

Please enjoy the wonderful silliness that is this song. It’ll be interesting to see if the live remake contains a song like this one (or if it will have any songs at all!). Enjoy! Thank you for all of the likes and comments, you guys are awesome!

You can become a patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

For more Film Music 101, see also: Film Music 101

See also:

Film Music 101: The First Film Score

Film Music 101: Borrowing

Film Music 101: Arranger

Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Film Music 101: Empathetic Sound

Film Music 101: Foley

Film Music 101: Montage

Film Music 101: Compilation Score

Film Music 101: “Stinger” Chords

Film Music 101: Dubbing

Film Music 101: Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

Film Music 101: Underscore

Film Music 101: Sidelining

Film Music 101: Orchestration and cues

Film Music 101: Leitmotif

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Thoughts on Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Years before the cinematic world witnessed the rivalry between vampires and werewolves in the Twilight series (2008-2012), a war was already ongoing in the world of Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution.

Selene_(Underworld)

Selene

  687460-michael_corvin_heals                                                                     

                                Michael Corvin

In both films, the story follows the vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) as she initially hunts down the Lycans (werewolves) that she believes killed her family. The truth however, is that it was a vampire named Viktor who actually killed her family AND turned her into a vampire, and discovering this truth forces Selene to go on the run. At the end of the first film, Selene is in the company of a man named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a distant descendant of Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), the first immortal and the father of the progenitors of the vampire and lycan races.

Alexanderc

 Alexander Corvinus

Marcustorch

                                                                                       Markus

It is revealed that Michael Corvin is actually a hybrid, both vampire AND lycan (because he was bitten by a lycan named Lucian and later by Selene), but he initially rejects this, until he discovers he can no longer eat human food and is almost captured (again).

Meanwhile, the vampire progenitor Markus (Tony Curran) has re-awoken and is hell bent on finding his brother William (Brian Steele) the first lycan, who has been locked away in a secret prison for over 800 years. It turns out that Selene possesses part of the key to opening William’s prison, as her human father built the place before being murdered by Viktor.

tumblr_mu27hsECcj1sjuk9jo1_1280

Markus and William reunited at last

Ultimately, Markus succeeds in obtaining the keys to his brother’s prison (killing his father in the process) and letting his brother loose. But before he dies, Alexander tells Selene to drink from his blood, giving her stronger healing abilities and making her much stronger than before. Michael is believed to be dead after Markus impaled him, but it turns out he was only regenerating and together Michael and Selene take on the two powerful brothers. After a vicious battle, both progenitors are killed and the world is saved. As the movie ends, Selene discovers that the sunlight no longer burns her skin (as it normally should for a vampire), raising the possibility of a whole new life she could spend together with Michael.

The score for this action-packed film was composed by Marco Beltrami (born 1966), a composer noted for his work in the horror genre (Mimic (1997), Resident Evil (2002), and The Woman in Black (2012)). Other notable scores include Blade II (2002), I, Robot (2004), World War Z (2013) and the remake of Ben-Hur (2016).

Unfortunately, movies like Underworld: Evolution often get overlooked because some feel that an action movie can’t possess a score worth noticing. While this is sometimes true (i.e. the score of Van Helsing in 2004), Underworld: Evolution does have a few themes that are worthy of mention. My favorite would have to be the final cue, called “The Future.” This is the moment when Selene holds her hand out to the sunlight and realizes that it doesn’t burn anymore.

Underworld: Evolution- The Future

Another cue of note is “Patricide” when Markus kills his father Alexander.

Underworld: Evolution- Patricide

If you haven’t seen the Underworld films before, I highly recommend the first two in the series (I admit I haven’t seen the one that came out in 2012). I hope you enjoyed this look at Underworld: Evolution!

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Film Music 101: Sidelining

In film music production, sidelining refers to when musicians appear onscreen in a film or television production. They will usually appear with their musical instruments, though they may or may not actually play on them.

Sidelining has occurred a lot over the course of history, so I will only select a few examples to show here.

The_Jazz_Singer_1927_Poster

The Jazz Singer-1927

During the famous scene where Al Jolson sings, a small orchestra is seated behind him. This movie is often considered the first “talkie” (that is, a film with synchronized sound).

Gone_With_The_WindP33P20026

Gone With the Wind– 1939

During the Confederate ball scene, there is a band on stage.

It’s almost not fair to include this movie since it’s about a group of musicians, but I couldn’t resist!

The Blues Brothers-1980

Practically any movie with live music in it is considered an example of sidelining, so there are too many examples to count. Another good example comes from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) during the scene in the opera house.

For more Film Music 101, see also: Film Music 101

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

See also:

Film Music 101: “Test” Lyrics

Film Music 101: The First Film Score

Film Music 101: Borrowing

Film Music 101: Arranger

Film Music 101: Anempathetic sound

Film Music 101: Empathetic Sound

Film Music 101: Foley

Film Music 101: Montage

Film Music 101: Compilation Score

Film Music 101: Leitmotif

Film Music 101: Orchestration and cues

Film Music 101: “Stinger” Chords

Film Music 101: Dubbing

Film Music 101: Diegetic vs. Non-Diegetic Music

Film Music 101: Underscore